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Can Bernie Sanders Help Rewrite Democratic Platform to Ban Fracking & Keep Oil in the Soil?

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As the Democratic platform committee meets in Washington, we speak to Michelle Chan, spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Action. She is working on recommendations for environmentalist and co-founder Bill McKibben, one of Sanders’ selections on the Democratic platform drafting committee. Climate activists have delivered more than 90,000 petitions to the DNC demanding the party’s platform for the 2016 race include a nationwide ban on fracking, which Sanders has backed, while Clinton has focused on the need for regulating the industry.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Michelle Chan, your group, Friends of the Earth Action, was one of the first environmental groups to endorse Bernie Sanders. We’re here in Washington, D.C. These days have been the first meeting of the platform committee. Is it, what, happening at the Washington Court Hotel? People are going from morning 'til night. You're writing suggestions for recommendations for one of Bernie Sanders’ picks on the platform committee, Bill McKibben. I want to go first to Bill McKibben speaking at that first hearing of the committee on Wednesday.

BILL McKIBBEN: I’m Bill McKibben from the Green Mountain State of Vermont. It’s good to be here in what is the hottest year we’ve ever recorded on this planet. It’s a great pleasure for me. The last few times I’ve come to Washington, D.C., I’ve ended up in jail, so this is a much nicer—it’s much nicer surroundings. And we’re in a country with a lot of people who are distrustful of our political system. And I hope that, as a committee, we’re able to provide them with some reasons to be less distrustful going forward.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Michelle Chan, talk about what is being hammered out. Larry Cohen just mentioned a very different platform, Democratic platform. What does that look like now? What are you recommending?

MICHELLE CHAN: Well, from the environmental point of view, certainly, we hope that we can see, through the platform, the differences that we’ve seen between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on environmental issues. One of the huge differences between the two is with respect to fracking. Sanders has been really clear from the beginning that he supports a moratorium on all fracking in the United States. That’s a very bold pro-environment stance. And the difference is that Hillary has supported regulation of fracking. So if we are able to see that kind of bold anti-fracking moratorium integrated into the party platform, that would be huge.

A second big priority would be with respect to this new emerging grassroots call to keep it in the ground. In particular, that is referring to an end to all new fossil fuel leases on public lands. And this is a call that Sanders himself has backed. He has co-sponsored legislation to this effect. And it really is the new rallying cry for climate activists in this country. So, an end to all new fossil fuel leases on public lands would be exactly the kind of thing that we would need. It would keep 450 million tons—billion tons of CO2 in the ground. And it is the kind of thing that we need to do in order to check climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: Climate activists have delivered more than 90,000 petitions to the Democratic National Committee demanding that the platform include a nationwide ban on fracking. But as you said, Hillary Clinton is not for that. Bernie Sanders is. And Bernie Sanders just has five of the 15 members of the platform committee. So, why do you think that something like that would go through? I mean, the presumptive nominee is not for it.

MICHELLE CHAN: Right. And certainly, this is going to be a negotiation, probably a very heated negotiation, between all of the members of the drafting committee. It’s not going to be easy, I think, for Bill McKibben to advance the kind of bold environmental agenda that Sanders has stood for and fought for, especially when it comes to butting heads against the Democratic establishment. We certainly know that fossil fuel and oil and gas interests have given heavily to party candidates, and so we don’t expect this to be a very easy fight. But overall, Sanders’ entire campaign, the movement that has built around him, they—you know, it’s been courageous. And it’s something—it’s a future that people are willing to fight for. So, we do expect it to be a difficult road to hoe, but we expect it to be fought valiantly.

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